Europe, Food & Drink, News, Regulatory

Raid in Germany highlights need for binding rules on THC in food

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Binding limits for THC in European food products are urgently needed to give producers security in their business planning and to set food makers on a par with other markets around the world, the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) has reiterated.

The Association’s comments come after a recall of hemp products by the Lidl supermarket chain in Germany earlier this month when police seized a range of hemp foods from an outlet in Rosenheim, Bavaria, prompting the chain to remove the hemp food items from its stores across the country. Enforcement officials said the seized products are undergoing review in a laboratory of the State Criminal Police Office in Munich.

In a statement, EIHA said the results of that review will show that far from being dangerous to consumers’ health, hemp food, and especially hempseed oil, is safe and full of nutrition.

Not only safe: Healthy

“Consumption of this food certainly does not lead to undesirable health consequences such as mood swings or fatigue,” said Daniel Kruse, EIHA president. “On the contrary, hemp products, like hemp seed oil, are very healthy and absolutely safe foods.”

The Association specifically criticized the recall on hempseed oil, the biggest segment in the hemp food sector, and a product that’s proven safe and popular with consumers due to its omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

“The review will show that, among other things, this hempseed oil is absolutely marketable and does not have an intoxicating effect,” said Kruse, who is also CEO at Düsseldorf-based Hempro Int., which sells hemp seed oil and other hemp foods under its HANF FARM brand, and has battled with German authorities over hempseed oil in the past.

Standards expected

With the European Commission expected to set a binding THC limit value for hemp food of 7.5 mg/kg by the end of the year, the raid on Lidl is perhaps the clearest example of why change is needed.

Germany and many other EU countries do not have established limit values for THC intake from food. The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) has so far only provided unnecessarily low “guideline values” ​​for ready-to-eat products. In the case of hemp seed oil, this value is 5mg/kg total THC including psychoactive delta-9-THC and so-called THCA – THC acid which has no intoxicating effect, EIHA noted. Tolerance under guideline values may exceed a factor of two before marketability could be restricted.

Meanwhile, the BfR refers to a recommended intake value of 0.001 mg per kg of body weight based on outdated guidance from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). That recommendation applies exclusively to delta-9-THC, according to EIHA.

But even based on the outdated recommended values from both BfR and EFSA, “there is nothing standing in the way of the marketability and product safety of hemp seed oil” now, according to the Association.

“To even begin to get into the range of adverse mild effects, they would have to consume more than a liter and a half of this vegetable oil,” Kruse said. “If they drink this amount of oil, their mood swings are more likely to stem from having to make a trip to the bathroom.”

Making hemp normal

EIHA has long pushed for updated limits for THC in hemp food products, advocating for a uniform and scientifically-based EU-wide approach.

If the European Commission delivers on the 7.5 mg/kg total THC standard for hemp foods this year – with tolerance allowing up to 10.8 mg/kg – it will finally put member states on an equal footing with North America, Australia and other countries that have operated under roughly similar limits for nearly two decades, EIHA said. (For further comparison, non-EU member Switzerland, for example, has had a scientifically based limit of 20 mg/kg total THC for decades, EIHA pointed out.)

“I am sure that it will soon be completely normal that we will be able to buy hemp products in every supermarket in Germany and Europe, just like in the U.S. and Canada, for example – and again, of course, at Lidl,” Kruse said. “There is no scientific reason to deprive consumers of these high-quality foods.”

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